Love may make the world go ‘round, but the ships at sea make everything else go ‘round the world. Many Episcopalians have heard of the Seamen’s Church Institute and, perhaps, associate it with knitting for Christmas at Sea or donations to help chaplains. But there is more to the story. Here is a look at the background and work of SCI as well as at some of the ways SCI generates support.
The Seamen's Church Institute (SCI) of New York & New Jersey was founded in 1834 by Charles Sherman Haight Sr. as an outreach project of the Episcopal Church. (You can read all about the founding in an article entitled A History of Maritime Ministry in the United States (http://seamenschurch.org/article/a-history-of-maritime-ministry-in-the-united-states).) As all of this occurred in the Diocese of New York, The Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche, the present Bishop of New York, is the Honorary Chairman. SCI is still affiliated with the Episcopal Church and serves mariners through education, pastoral care, and legal advocacy. It is the largest, most comprehensive mariners’ agency in North America.
Seamen’s Church Institute has located its headquarters in Port Newark, NJ and operates seafarers’ centers in Paducah, KY and Houston, TX, as well. There are also ministries of pastoral care on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and the Gulf of Mexico, in the San Francisco Bay area, in Philadelphia and South Jersey, and in Newport, Rhode Island.
The chaplains visit more than 2,400 vessels annually in the Port of New York and New Jersey and along American inland waterways. SCI provides free legal advice for merchant mariners worldwide and advocates for their rights to the United States government. SCI instructors provide professional development and educational programs for inland, coastal, and deep-sea mariners using simulator training facilities at SCI-Paducah and SCI-Houston. SCI's Christmas at Sea program provides more than 20,000 hand-knit gifts to mariners at the holidays. The mariners on the big container ships are often signed on for a six or nine-month contract, during which they are not permitted to leave the ship. The visiting chaplains provide a link to home and family, often by something as simple as enabling a cell phone call home.
So where is the fun? In July there was a Food Truck Festival at the Port Newark headquarters. Six (or so) food trucks came and provided lobster rolls, pulled pork, wood-oven pizza and more treats for the ticket holders. There were lawn games and a beer tasting from a local brewery. Yes, this was a fund-raiser!
Just recently, SCI held its annual Pilot Boat Cruise on the Hudson. Invited guests and donors boarded Pilot Boat 1 at the sea wall in Battery Park and were treated to a cruise past the Statue of Liberty to see the container port in NJ and then up the inlet to the newly elevated Bayonne Bridge. A delightful buffet dinner on board made for a lovely fall evening.
From September 28 – October 1, some hardy souls will participate in the SCI Mountain Challenge. Taking place on land and water, the 2017 SCI Mountain Challenge parallels many of the hardships mariners confront on a daily basis: the elements (facing northern New England’s notoriously unpredictable weather), isolation (teams work self-sufficiently on the mountain and water race courses) and physically demanding work (participants ascend over 3,000 feet each day). In addition to the outdoor elements, this event also includes a “Philanthropy Challenge”, asking participants to raise funds and awareness for the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) and its mariner support services.
The Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon in Houston had to be cancelled this year because of Hurricane Harvey. But coming sooner than you think is the 18th Annual River Bell Awards Luncheon on Thursday, December 7, 2017, in Paducah McCracken County Convention and Expo Center, Paducah, KY. Finally, the the 40th Annual Silver Bell Awards Dinner was held on Thursday, June 8, 2017, at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers, New York, NY. The 41st Silver Bells dinner will be on June 6th, 2018.
All of these Special Events are an important source of funding for the Seamen’s Church Institute's programs. If you would like to receive information or invitations to these events, please email SCI's Special Events Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone 212-349-9090.
You can have a lot of fun supporting the Seamen’s Church Institute! Of course, all donations are important. The Christmas at Sea program is a way to reach out to individuals in a way that a monetary donation can’t. There are also opportunities to volunteer and sponsor. Check the SCI website to see ways that you or your congregation can be a part of this ministry.